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The Unforgettable R. J. Rushdoony

By Otto Scott
April 01, 2001

There was a time in the late Sixties and early Seventies when the literary press was heavy with warnings about the "menace" of over-population. This ancient Malthusian Theory that too many births would lead to an exhaustion of food and worldwide famine alarmed many, including Dr. Kissinger, who in turn alarmed President Nixon. That led the two of them to launch a global American campaign to promote abortions, especially in the Third World, with State Department-funded programs. That launched, in other words, the present horror responsible, so far, for 40 million abortions in the U. S., and uncounted millions in the rest of the world.

At that point The Wall Street Journal ran a brief plug about a book by Dr. R. J. Rushdoony titled The Myth of Over-Population. Since the Journal rarely runs so brief but hearty an endorsement, I ordered the book. It began by describing a cholera epidemic underway in some remote part of China, which was increasing deaths among the population with the exception of infants and the elderly. Dr. Rushdoony said that theologians ascribed these deaths to the punishment of God for lack of faith. But he also said that science had, fairly recently, discovered that the human body creates a certain chemical that renders people immune to the cholera spirochete. But, he added, when people become afraid, their fear prevents that chemical from being created. Hence those in the middle of life, aware of the danger of cholera, render themselves vulnerable to cholera when they feel fear, while the very young, being unaware, remain immune, and the very elderly, familiar with the idea of death, also remain untouched, while the healthy succumb in larger numbers. In other words, the theologians are correct.

I was so impressed by this scientific evidence of how attitudes toward God affect our fates that I sent for everything else that Rushdoony wrote. In due course I received his books and sat down to read. The first of these was his Institutes of Biblical Law, published in 1973. It was, at first, fascinating. But as I continued to read, it became increasingly significant. The footnotes alone indicated a learning whose scope far exceeded any I had previously encountered, and tolerance that slowly began to change my mind about subjects, I had not before encountered.

It was a book that, as I read, I became aware was changing my mind. Prior to this I had a habit of calling people who impressed me, but I preferred in this instance to wait, for I knew instinctively that we would, if God willed, eventually meet.

In the meantime I joined the Orthodox Presbyterian Church denomination, for one of the book jackets said Rushdoony was a pastor for the OPC. But he was not there, and I remained almost indifferent to the realization that I was already changing my life. Eventually I gave the pastor whom I met copies of a couple of my recent books and waited. And in due course Rush's two reviews appeared in Christianity Today. They were unique, penetrating to the heart of both volumes more incisively and accurately than any other reviewer had ever managed. That made a call imperative, and we met.

From that moment, our lives joined. There was no question that we shared viewpoints to an extent unprecedented in my life. Within a few months my wife, daughter, and I moved to Chalcedon's neighborhood in Vallecito in Northern California and Rush and I worked together for the next ten years. In the course of that relationship, I contributed to the Chalcedon Report every month, shared lecture tours to virtually every part of the United States, and made trips abroad together to the UK, Scotland, France, and Mexico, created and spoke on monthly tapes on what we called The Easy Chair, and wrote individual books and even one with several other associates titled The Great Christian Revolution defining the various roots of Christianity through the centuries.

In all that time Rushdoony published what I wrote without changing the text by a single word. Our conversations were never marred by any efforts to edit, alter, or change in any overt way, but it was obvious that our conversations, which ranged through every sort of topic, times, and subject, was always fresh, informative, original, and insightful. No other man had as much to impart, or matched his ability to do so in a manner that enlarged the mind and the spirit.

It was, of course, inevitable that we parted, as Dr. Rushdoony's focus for the Chalcedon Foundation shifted from the scholarly to the evangelical; but I never found a reason for regret over the time I spent in his marvelous presence, and in the lessons I learned from him, that led me to the faith I enjoy today.


Topics: Biblical Law, Biography, Christian Reconstruction, Culture , Dominion, Education, Family & Marriage, R. J. Rushdoony, Science, Statism, Theology

Otto Scott

Otto Scott (May 26, 1918—May 5, 2006), a former Chalcedon staffer, was a journalist, business executive, and historian. He began his newspaper career at the age of sixteen and later worked for United Features Syndicate and TheSan Diego Union. When WWII broke out he joined the Merchant Marine.  After the war, Scott worked in the advertising industry, then became editor of a manufacturing trade journal, Rubber World. In the course of his assignments, he interviewed Paul Blazer, the chairman of Ashland Oil, in Ashland, Kentucky, and was invited to write the history of the company. He would later write corporate histories for Raytheon, Black & Decker, and Arch Mineral Corporation.  After his conversion to Christianity, he focused on writing about modern history, politics, and cultural trends.  In his later years, he worked for Chalcedon before publishing his own newsletter, The Compass.

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